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Canada unveils plans to legalise recreational marijuana

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The bundle of bills tabled Thursday in the House of Commons mark the start of a lengthy process which the government hopes to have completed by July 2018.

"The proposed legislation would allow Canadian adults to possess and purchase regulated and quality-controlled cannabis products, while prohibiting sales to young Canadians and any products, promotion, packaging or labelling that could be appealing to young people".

"We know that criminal prohibition has failed", former-police-chief-turned-MP Bill Blair, who spearheaded the initiative, told a press conference.

"Today, we are following through on our commitment to introduce comprehensive legislation to legalize, strictly regulate and restrict access to cannabis and to create new laws to punish more severely those who drive under its influence", said Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada.

As part of the major legislative initiative, the federal government is proposing a number of changes to the Criminal Code to punish anyone who would provide marijuana to youth or sell the product outside the new legal regime.

Of-age individuals may possess and/or share up to 30 grams of cannabis, as well as buy pot or grow up to four cannabis plants at a time inside of a residence. And the federal government plans to impose penalties of up to 14 years in prison for selling or giving away marijuana to minors.

Canadian Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale defended the legalization, saying current laws have been "an abject failure" at keeping minors from using marijuana and organized crime from profiting.

Authorities envision regulating marijuana like alcohol. Canada joins Uruguay, the only other nation to have fully legalized recreational marijuana (Portugal has had great success with its decriminalization of all drugs).

It is also unspecified where Canadians will be able to buy marijuana.

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Health minister Jane Philpott said: "The Cannabis Act will help keep our children safe and address the health risks associated with cannabis".

Canada legalized marijuana for selected medicinal uses in 2001.

"Canada's federal government set the age at 18, but is allowing each of the provinces to determine if it should be higher".

The main goal, the government said, is to control the production, distribution, sale and possession of marijuana, and keep it out of the hands of criminal organizations.

“With legalization in a growing number of our own states and now an entire major neighboring country ending prohibition, its going to be increasingly hard for drug warriors in the Trump administration to meaningfully roll back our gains, ” said Tom Angell of the pro-legalization group Marijuana Majority.

The government will allow the citizens to carry up to 30 grams of dried cannabis for personal use. And many in the medical field are concerned about the long-term health effects of increased use of marijuana by Canadians under the age of 25.

Goodale argued that the Canadian approach would ultimately prove to be the better one. Another priority for the government will be to ensure that there is a broad variety of producers of marijuana serving the recreational market, and not just the existing network that includes many large-scale facilities.

The provinces also have to figure how they will regulate distribution.

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